Football League to pass on Bob Higgins letter to police

Bob Higgins. Picture: Solent News and Photo Agency
Bob Higgins. Picture: Solent News and Photo Agency

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The English Football League is planning to pass a letter about the Bob Higgins Soccer Academy written to clubs in 1989 to Operation Hydrant, the ongoing police investigation into child abuse in football.

In the letter, the then Football League told clubs that if they were considering working with the Bob Higgins Soccer Academy they should 'give this office the opportunity of appraising them of the situation before taking steps in this direction'.

Former Southampton youth coach Bob Higgins left the club in the same year the letter was written.

It comes after Portsmouth builder Lee Smith, 45, who played at Southampton's team youth under Higgins, claimed he was groomed by the coach.

An EFL statement on Tuesday said: 'The EFL is fully committed to providing whatever assistance is requested by the FA, Operation Hydrant and/or clubs with regard to the historic sexual abuse allegations, as well as undertaking a full review of our current regulations and safeguarding policies.

'Last week the media brought to our attention a letter dated 27th April 1989 from the Football League Limited in respect of the Bob Higgins Soccer Academy.

'Upon being made aware of its existence, we began a search of our archives in order to locate the relevant file from that time. The file has now been found and arrangements are in place for this to be passed to Operation Hydrant in case it is relevant to any ongoing investigations.

'The letter referred to above was issued to all 92 clubs as a result of the Bob Higgins Soccer Academy writing to them on or around the 14th April 1989 offering their services, which operated outside the licensed criteria that applied at that time, in respect of avoiding the maximum time boys were able to travel to clubs' licensed 'Centres of Excellence' as well as the number of hours they could train.

'The Football League's response was sent with the support of both the FA and the ESFA (English Schools FA) who had been involved in discussions about the status of the BobHiggins Soccer Academy outside the licensed criteria in the preceding months.

'As the file will now shortly be with the police, no further comment will be made by the EFL at this time. Nevertheless, it was felt important to provide this additional detail at this point as its early release in no way prejudices the ongoing inquiry.'

Southampton have previously said they are 'committed to working together'' with Hampshire Police to investigate any historical child sex abuse allegations.